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FURTHER CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE PROBLEM OF 

ATLANTIS 

The discussion in the January Review, by Professor Schuchert and 
Dr. SchuUer, of Termier's paper on Atlantis, the "lost" continent, has 
called forth the following two papers by Mr. Edwin Swift Balch, Councilor 
of this Society, and Mr. William H. Babcock, a private collector of Wash- 
ington, D. C, who has recently made an extensive investigation of a related 
topic from the standpoint of early cartography.^ The present papers 
furnish additional material on this vexed problem. The one suggests an 
identification of locality different from that favored by geologists, which 
considers the sunken land-mass whose remnants are the Canary and Cape 
Verde Islands to be the "lost" continent of the ancient myth; while the 
other discusses the improbability of any connection between the names 
Atlantis and Antilles. 



Atlantis or Minoan Crete 
by edwin swift balch 

The lost Atlantis of Plato has been for many years if not centuries a 
subject of discussion and controversy. It is usually assumed to have been 
located in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere off the coast of the Sahara Desert. 
This solution of the puzzle, however, has never been definitely accepted, 
and the matter is constantly being reargued afresh. Professor Termier's 
interesting paper on Atlantis, recently reviewed in these pages, brings 
forward anew the theory of the location of Atlantis in the Atlantic Ocean. 
In view of this, it seems well to say a few words about the theory — briefly 
mentioned by Mr. James Baikie in his book "The Sea Kings of Crete "^ 
and said by him to have been broached by an anonymous writer in an 
English newspaper a year or two earlier — that the lost Atlantis of Plato is 
really Minoan Crete. 

The theory that Atlantis is Minoan Crete could only have been started 
since 1900, for up to the end of the nineteenth century Turkish suzerainty 
over this island of the JEgean prevented all archeological work. But with 
the first sods upturned by the archeologists's spade great results were 
obtained. Gournia and Phaistos and Knossos with its fine palace were 
unearthed, and before long the world realized that in Crete there had once 
been a totally forgotten civilization which extended over not less than two 

1 The So-called Mythical Islands of the Atlantic in Mediseval Maps, Scottish Qeogr. Mag., Vol. 31, 1915. 
pp. 261-269, 316-320, 360-371, 411-422, 531-541; Vol. 32. 1916, pp. 73-79, 131-140, 418-428, 477-484. 

2 A. and C. Black, London, 1910; reference on pp. 256-259 (see review in Bull. Amer. Geogr. Soc. Vol. 44, 
1912, pp. 382-383). 

388 



PROBLEM Of ATLANTIS 389 

thousand years and which came to a sudden end in about the year 1200 B. C. 
Moreover, during most of its existence the Minoan kingdom was in touch 
with Egypt ; the last Egyptian relics found in Crete, according to Flinders 
Petrie, date from about the year 1200 B. C, thus apparently coinciding 
with the downfall of Minoan civilization. 

If one looks at Plato's statements about Atlantis, which are republished 
at some length in Termier's article, it soon becomes apparent that they 
are a very confused jumble of ideas. This is probably due to several causes. 
One is that Plato did not hear the story of the Egyptian priest himself, 
but only heard it at second or rather at third hand. The story as told by 
the priest himself to Solon was probably confused enough, and when it 
reached Plato it was still more confused. Then again the story related 
to an event which happened at the least not less than six hundred years 
before. Historical records in Plato's time were not kept with anything 
like the accuracy with which they are kept now, yet just consider what we 
should know of the invasion of England by William the Conqueror if, from 
his day to this, there had been absolutely no intercourse between England 
and America. 

One of the facts which it seems can be gathered with some certainty 
from Plato's narrative is that Atlantis was a large island. Of its sur- 
roundings he says: "From this island you could easily pass to other 
islands, and from them to the entire continent which surrounds the interior 
sea. "What there is on this side of the strait of which we are speaking 
resembles a vast gateway . . . and the land which surrounds it is a real 
continent." That is to say, there were other islands near Atlantis and 
these were in an interior sea near to a continent. These geographical data 
apply perfectly to Crete and the Ji^gean Sea. 

Another fact which may be extracted with some certainty from Plato's 
narrative is that Atlantis was a kingdom of some extent and power. Its 
kings "had under their dominion the entire island as well as several other 
islands and some parts of the continent. Besides on the hither side of the 
strait they were still reigning over Libya as far as Egypt and over Europe 
as far as the Tyrrhenian." These statements may perfectly well apply to 
Minoan Crete. Crete may easily have ruled over many of the islands of 
the ^gean, it may well have ruled over the Peloponnesus at the time 
of Mycenffi and Tiryns, it may well have ruled over the North African 
coast of the Cyrenaica. This is certainly far more probable than that a 
people living in the Atlantic Ocean should have ruled over Morocco, 
Algeria, Tripoli, and the Cyrenaica as far as the valley of the Nile. And 
if they had they would certainly have left some relies of their occupation, 
but no relies of any such people have been found in North Africa. 

Plato not only tells us that Atlantis was a large island, but he gives 
a short account of it which Termier condenses or translates as follows: 
One of Plato's characters, Critias, "describes the cradle of the Atlantean 



390 THE GEOGEAPHICAL REVIEW 

race ; a plain located near the sea opening in the central part of the island 
and the most fertile of plains; about it a circle of mountains stretching 
to the sea, a circle open at the center and protecting the plain from the icy 
blasts of the north ; in these superb mountains, numerous villages, rich and 
populous ; in the plain, a magnificent city, the palaces and temples of which 
are constructed from stones of three colors — white, black, and red — drawn 
from the very bosom of the island; here and there mines yielding all the 
minerals useful to man; finally the shores of the island cut perpendicu- 
larly and commanding from above the tumultuous sea." Now this is an 
accurate descriptiou of Crete and Knossos, and as far as they are con- 
cerned there is nothing fanciful about it. 

According to Plato the destruction .of Atlantis was the joint work of 
Egypt and Athens. The old Egyptian priest told Solon "The records 
inform us of the destruction by Athens of a singularly powerful army 
. . . All this power was once upon a time united in order by a single 
blow to subjugate our country, your own, and all the peoples living on 
the hither side of the strait. It was then that the strength and courage 
of Athens blazed forth." Apparently Egypt and Athens together put an 
end to some kingdom threatening them both. And certainly this points to 
Minoan Crete, whose central location might well have threatened the 
Egyptian and Athenian allies and whose civilization we know was wiped 
out absolutely about 1200 B. C. 

Is there any recollection of Crete and its destruction in Greek records? 
It seems as if there were in the shape of the legendary Minotaur, the 
terrible monster who devoured so many Greek youths and maidens. But, 
literally translated, Minotaur means the bull of Minos, and we can see in 
the museums of our chief cities copies of the frescoes from the Palace at 
Knossos representing the slaughter of Greek prisoners in the Minoan bull 
fights. And the Minotaur, Greek mythology tells us, was destroyed by 
Theseus, which would seem to be a reminiscence of the destruction of 
Minoan Crete by Athenians and Egyptians. 

The passage in Plato which has led most strongly to the belief that 
Atlantis was an Atlantic island, a belief seemingly to some extent justified 
before the archeologieal discovery of Minoan Crete, is the following : ' ' The 
records inform us of the destruction by Athens of a singularly powerful 
army, an army which came from the Atlantic Ocean and which had the 
effrontery to invade Europe and Asia; for this sea was then navigable, 
and beyond the strait which you call the Pillars of Hercules there was 
an island larger than Libya and even Asia." This is surely a most con- 
fused muddle of names and ideas, representing hopelessly confused notions 
of geography. 

Consider the statement that "there was an island larger than Libya 
and even Asia." The size assigned to Atlantis shows definitely the lack 
of accuracy of the whole passage. Did the Egyptians or the Greeks of 



PROBLEM OP ATLANTIS 391 

the year 600 B. C. have any knowledge of the Atlantic Ocean? There 
is no record of anything of the kind, beyond the one in Herodotus saying 
that before his time some Phoenician navigators had sailed around the 
African continent. Is there any warrant for believing that the name 
"Pillars of Hercules" originally applied to the Rock of Tarik and the 
mountain masses of Morocco? We should not assume Egyptian and early 
Greek notions of geography to have been anything like our own. They 
could not have been. Does not the most probable explanation of Plato's 
statement seem to be that by the Atlantic Ocean or a navigable sea he 
meant the Mediterranean and by the Pillars of Hercules some passage 
between high rocks in the J5gean, rather than what is meant by our 
present nomenclature? 

It is especially in the passages in Plato which are hard to interpret 
that we must remember that Plato is not telling us something at first 
hand. Plato tells us that he learned from Solon that an Egyptian priest 
had told Solon a historical tale which the priest had read in the sacred 
books. We have thus not the original story as told in the sacred books, 
but a verbal version of it transmitted verbally through three minds before 
reaching us. Exactly what was in the sacred books we shall probably never 
know, but as far as the passage in Plato is concerned which has caused 
so much speculation — "an army which came from the Atlantic Ocean" — 
it seems quite possible that the name "Atlantic Ocean" was not in the 
sacred books at all. 

Another passage in Plato is also hard to interpret. "Later with great 
earthquakes and inundations, in a single day and one fatal night, all who 
had been warriors against you were swallowed up. The island of Atlantis 
disappeared beneath the sea. Since that time the sea in those quarters has 
become unnavigable; vessels cannot pass there because of the sands which 
extend over the site of the buried isle." "The sea has become un- 
navigable." What sea? Certainly not the Atlantic Ocean, nor the Medi- 
terranean either! "Vessels cannot pass there" implies commerce on the 
part of Egypt. But did Egypt ever have any commerce in the Atlantic? 
Certainly there is no record of anything of the kind. Does it not seem prob- 
able that Plato's remarks are a garbled report of the extermination by 
Egyptians and Greeks of the Minoan Cretans, after which commerce with 
Crete stopped? At any rate, this explanation would seem to interpret to 
some extent this perhaps most confused of all the passages in Plato, a 
passage whose original form in the sacred books was very probably quite 
diiferent. 

The geological evidences advanced of the existence of a sunken continent 
or island in the Atlantic may be quite accurate. Geologists, however, seem 
very much in the dark about the time at which such an Atlantic island 
may have become submerged. They are uncertain as to whether it took 
place in the Eocene, the Miocene, or the Pliocene. Now supposing such 



S92 THE GHOGEAPHICAL REVIEW 

a submergence occurred even only as late as the Pliocene, what would it 
mean in regard to Atlantis ? Our present, or Recent, short geological period 
was preceded by the Pleistocene, which was preceded by the Pliocene. The 
length of the Pleistocene is variously estimated, but a conservative estimate 
is about 500,000 years. This would place the submergence of the land 
in the Atlantic, if it occurred in the Pliocene, more than 500,000 years ago. 
Now can any one seriously maintain that any of the Egyptians, where 
Dynastic and Predynastic remains can hardly date back over 10,000 years, 
could have a tradition of an occurrence in the Atlantic dating back more 
than half a million years ? 

It is, of course, very probable that there were early men living in the 
late Pliocene. The famous Piltdown skull, about which so much pother 
has been raised of late, is considered by many competent archeologists to 
date from Pliocene times. Piltdown man was also sufficiently different 
from modern man to have been assigned to a separate class and to have 
been named after his discoverer Eoanthropus Dawsoni. The implements 
found in connection with the Piltdown skull are of the roughest chipped 
stone type, eoliths. Now, supposing that there were any Piltdown men on 
the sunken lands in the Atlantic, could any one pretend to believe that they 
were capable of building a city and palaces of white, black, and red build- 
ing stones? 

The theory which has been so long and so frequently the subject of con- 
troversy, namely, that Plato's Atlantis was in the Atlantic, seems untenable 
in the light of modern science. The theory that Plato's Atlantis was 
Minoan Crete, on the contrary, seems to stand up very well before recent 
archeological discoveries. At any rate it deserves to be more widely known, 
for it certainly seems to meet fairly completely the facts which the old 
Egyptian priest was trying to tell Solon and Solon to tell Plato of the 
destruction of what seems to have been the then already nearly forgotten 
civilization of Minoan Crete. 



Atlantis and Antillia 
by william h. babcock 

In his discussion of Termier's paper in the January Review Dr. Schuller 
charges with petitio principii the French geologist's announcement that 
he awaits "the final answer" to the problem of Atlantis from anthropology 
and oceanography; also Dr. Hrdlicka's conclusion, from very considerable 
and persuasive evidence, that the American Indians came from Asia. The 
ancient and well-worn phrase seems a curious misfit in both instances. 
Both also are likely to define for a long time — the latter permanently — 
the general attitude of informed and thinking men.